A non-profit for Prospect Development professionals. 

Apra-IL Blog


You Should Write a Blog About That!

As part of our goal to share industry and career-related information to colleagues in the fundraising development field, we encourage you to contact us if you would like to contribute to our blog. 

We also enjoy reading other blogs and may contact you to share a guest post. 


Current Apra-IL Blog Series

Dear Analyst

Motivations of Leaders

New! True Life: A Day in Prospect Development

Completed in 2018 - 50 Shades of Prospect Development


  • Mon, February 12, 2018 8:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    What makes prospect development a great career?

    Apra-IL is asking local and national industry leaders what the field means to them and why and how they have pursued success in prospect development. Through this blog series, we will explore what drives industry leaders to propel their careers and prospect development forward. 

    For this month's piece, Joan Ogwumike, Apra-IL member and volunteer, interviews Jami Hougen Johnson, Director of Prospect Management at the University of Chicago.


    Jami is the Director of Prospect Management at the University of Chicago. Previously, she was the program director of a workplace giving coalition that supported social change, environmental, and cultural causes in Iowa. At the University of Chicago, she leads a team of analysts that work with colleagues across Alumni Relations and Development (ARD) to develop prospect pools, improve portfolio management, build pipeline strength, analyze gift officer productivity, create prospect management policy, and implement fundraising strategies. The prospect management team is part of a larger decision support team that includes financial analysis and forecasting, and information engagement and education specialists.

    She has presented at APRA International and APRA Illinois, and is hoping to present in the future on building out strong prospect lifecycle programs in higher education organizations. She received her BS in neuropsychology and certificate in nonprofit management from the University of Iowa and received a certificate in project management and is in the process of getting a MLA from the University of Chicago Graham School.

    If hearing about any of the work at UChicago is interesting to you, contact Jami (jhougen@uchicago.edu) to learn more! The Prospect Management team is hiring and will be posting an analyst position in the next few weeks.

    Apra-IL: Can you tell us what motivates you in your current field? Have your motivations have ever changed?

    Hougen Johnson: I wanted to make a positive impact in the world through my career and nonprofits are like world-improving powerhouses. The people in these organizations are so dedicated to the cause, and in turn they help donors and prospective donors make an impact through their time and giving.

    Higher education is something that is important to me, so my motivation there has never really changed – although I loved working with smaller social change organizations years ago. I’d say my motivations have changed when it comes to the different areas within a nonprofit. I’ve done frontline fundraising, database administration, some program development, and now prospect development. Challenge itself is motivating, so when I see a big gap in my knowledge I’m interested to move more in that direction.  

    Apra-IL: Describe your journey into your current position.

    Hougen Johnson: I’ve heard people talk about how they “fell” into prospect development (and what a great career to fall into), but my journey was a little more direct. When I was an undergraduate, I wanted to work in the medical field and worked as part of a cancer research team and then in the heart transplant department. Both of these departments had wonderful nonprofits they worked closely with, and I got more involved. I was able to bring more analysis and data to these fundraising programs and was surprised at how much this insight impacted dollars raised.  I focused on for-profit strategy for some time, but ultimately came back to nonprofits.

    My first full-time nonprofit job was one of those where you get to where all the hats, and I mean all the hats.  I learned a lot, but wanted an opportunity to become more specialized in my work. To get more specialization it helps to work in a larger nonprofit, so I saved up and moved to Chicago. When my friends asked what I wanted to do, I’d tell them I wanted to work on Michigan Avenue (it was the most opposite location from where I worked previously that I could think of) and have a chance to study what made people give some of the biggest gifts charity receive (again, opposite of the mostly annual fund program I ran previously). Believe it or not, I ended up working on Michigan Avenue working as a prospect management analyst focused on principal gifts.

    Apra-IL: What advice would you give a new professional in the field of Prospect Development?

    Hougen Johnson: Great question. I’ve been lucky to work with amazing people, and have gotten some excellent advice over the years.   

    1. Ask big picture questions. 

    Don’t limit your knowledge to just your role – even when you’re first starting out. What are the biggest challenges your organization faces? What is your organization trying to accomplish in the next 5, 10 years? How will fundraising impact the ability to achieve these goals? What are your organization’s key metrics? How does your work fit into these metrics? What are the biggest pain points your gift officers experience in their work? Tie what you learn about the greater organizational needs to your own work.

    It can be easy to be a silo when working in prospect development. Understanding the big picture (and not just thinking short-term) will help you ask good questions and make your work more effective. Getting involved in professional organizations (like APRA IL!) is also a great way to understand the bigger picture, and learn about what other organizations are doing.

    2. Study your impact.

    UChicago’s prospect research, analytics, and prospect management teams recently did some cross-team interviews to better understand pain points and opportunities in our prospect development work. One common trend throughout these conversations was the desire to have a better understanding of prospect development’s impact on the organization.  This wasn’t a surprising finding necessarily, but it did underscore the importance of taking the time to study your own work.

    You can get feedback and reports from other people (and this should be part of reflecting on your work), but it is also important to track and understand your work yourself.  Where are you adding value? One place to start is understanding how you might help increase funds and reduce cost. You might reduce costs by helping staff prioritize large groups of donors and prospective donors.

    If you have some ideas for how you’re adding value, what actually is happening with your work? Keep a spreadsheet of prospects that scored highly on a model, you’ve identified, or you’ve assigned. Put it on your calendar to run a report on these names. Which prospects are giving? Which are being engaged? If nothing seems to be happening with some of these people, look at the data and think about what this is, and then reach out to your colleagues for feedback.  Understanding your impact is an important motivator for work in general, but studying your work will also help you regularly improve.

    3. Focus on your strengths.

    Think back to mentors or people that you thought were excellent at what they did. They were probably good generally, but there was likely a handful of things they were particularly great at, right? When you’re first starting out you want to make sure you’re checking all the boxes, but pay attention to the work that draws you in. Take note and focus on that work whenever you can. Of course, you don’t want to ignore your weaknesses, but you can be “good enough” in some areas of your work, and then be great at a few.

    I’m particularly fond of radar or spider charts for this (ask UChicago’s PM team, they are probably sick of these). Talk to your manager and colleagues about the skills that are most important to your job. Work with your manager to rate yourself on these skills so you can see any major areas to improve, and then work on the areas you want to get “pointy”. I’m not a fan of personality tests because I think they often put people in a box… but Strengthsfinders is a good tool if you’re looking for a place to start.

    Apra-IL: #researchpride is a fun and meaningful hashtag that allows professionals in Prospect Development to reflect and share why they feel proud to be in the field. Can you share a moment in which you have felt proud to be in Prospect Development? 

    Hougen Johnson: First, can we get a #pmpride hashtag going too? Really though, I work with a brilliant team. They ask beautiful questions and are dedicated to finding answers. I’m regularly impressed, excited, and proud of the impact their questions (and answers!) have on our fundraising program. And when I think we’ve looked at all the data and there isn’t much more to review, we meet with gift officers and other teams and they ask questions that never crossed our minds. There is certainly an art to fundraising, but there is also a science and as a field we’ve seen a lot of changes to the different voices that are heard in organizational strategy conversations.

    These conversations help us all think outside of the box about prospect development processes, portfolio management, how we engage donors and prospective donors … these improvements increase UChicago’s impact on people, our community, and the world. How can you not be proud of that?


  • Mon, January 29, 2018 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Created by: Joan Ogwumike, Principle Gifts, Prospect Research Analyst, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Founding Principal, Jstrategies

    Apra-IL presents 50 Shades of Prospect Development; a series of illustrations that seek provide a visual depiction of the complexities in all aspects of the Prospect Development field. Each colorful image will represent the emotional ups and downs, moments of pride, successful projects and relationships, conflicts with our co-workers/technology/work-life balance, and/or opportunities for growth we find in our careers.

     

    For our first entry, I’ve created the big picture of Prospect Development shown broken into its composite pieces. Each vibrant puzzle piece represents an aspect of the field and how each area of PD needs one another. Together, they create a larger picture. I hope that you can identify your role(s) in the puzzle. Which piece stands out to you as a primary function of your role? Which piece is your organization lacking? Can Apra-IL help you grow in that area? Let us know by posting below!


  • Mon, January 08, 2018 10:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    It’s a new year and we've got new offerings for our members. Our organization has accomplished a great deal in 2017, but we look to 2018 to reach new heights and maintain this exemplary prospect development chapter for professionals in Illinois and the surrounding region.

    As I begin my last year as your chapter President, I want to reaffirm the mission that I set out to create three years ago: to build a chapter that is self-sustaining, a source of expertise, and a place full of collaboration and camaraderie. Throughout my term, we have made great strides in these goals, but we still have work to do!

    A consistent struggle for our chapter has been getting and retaining board volunteers. Just recently, we added three new board members (hurray!). Megan Humphrey has taken on the role of President-Elect and will be shadowing me throughout the year. Peter Kotowski will be taking over for Jessica Szadziewicz as Vice President and Keli Jonas has agreed to become our new Programming Chair. Special thanks to Jessica for all of her work throughout her tenure with Apra-IL. We look forward to having you as a board advisor and active member. Thank you all for your participation in voting in our new board members! See below for more details about our new teammates. 

    As President, I am very proud of the work done by our chapter and its members and I hope to have the chance to meet you all this year at our events. The calendar for 2018 is always available on our website, so take this opportunity to browse and plan what you’d like to attend. The first event of the year will be in February for APRA International’s Share the Knowledge Week. Apra-IL will be hosting a webinar during this time frame along with our webinar partners Apra-MN, Apra-MidSouth, and Apra-Great Plains. More information will be available on the event’s page in January. I am looking forward to the coming year with Apra-IL and I hope you are, too!

    Best Wishes and a Happy New Year,

    Katie Ingrao, Apra-IL President



  • Mon, December 25, 2017 8:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    2017 has been quite a year! We accomplished a lot as a chapter and it’s important to take a moment to note the hard work of our volunteers. I want to thank our chapter members who volunteered their time and talent this year, especially those members who served as speakers at our Spring Symposium in May and for our quarterly webinars. In addition to the formal educational programming that we provided, we were able to have a lot of fun! We hope you were able to join us at our SPiN ping pong night, attended the field trip to the Chicago Botanic Gardens, or lingered at one of our numerous happy hours/salons, and gathered in Anaheim, CA during the annual Prospect Development Conference for breakfast.

    We look forward to continuing to provide our members with great events and opportunities in 2018! 

    In an effort to be more collaborative and diverse in our programming, we have continued to expand our webinar offerings.Currently, we are partnered with Apra-MN and Apra-MidSouth in a license to use GoToWebinar to provide webinars to all of our members free or at member pricing. Last month we extended an offer to Apra-Great Plains to join our license to provide another source of expertise and content. As a part of our agreement, each chapter will be responsible for hosting one webinar a quarter, thus reducing the strain of programming on each of our respective chapters. This is a great opportunity for us and I am very excited to be broadening our educational reach through webinars.

    We also plan to expand our reach downstate. The board is currently exploring ways to live stream our educational programming and provide satellite locations to make attendance and participation easier for those who can’t make it to the physical event. More details to come on this via our monthly e-mail. Stay tuned!

    I want to thank you again for supporting your local Apra chapter through attending an event, volunteering to speak, and/or responding to our requests for ideas. We appreciate you and hope to continue to provide excellent professional development through 2018.

    Warmly, 

    Katie Ingrao, Apra-IL President

  • Tue, December 05, 2017 10:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Elisa Shoenberger, Benchmarking Analyst, Grenzebach Glier and Associates

    Dear Analyst,

    We have to review the obituaries every work day to check for alumni and donors. Mondays are the worst because I have three days of newspapers to review! Obituary review can take most of the day and it’s really monotonous looking up names. I’m not exactly sure why I do this and what benefit it presents to my organization. Is there another way to make this task less odious or tedious?

    Thanks,

    Overwhelmed by Obituaries


    Dear Overwhelmed,

    Reviewing obituaries isn’t an easy task! It takes time to review an obituary, check the names against your database, and then updating the record or create an email. Plus it’s not the most pleasant of topics either. However, it’s an important activity because it’s part of caring for our donors and alumni. Fundraising is about relationships, including the end of life. We should stay abreast of all the people (and their loved ones) who have passed away is to make sure we approach donors and alumni appropriately in their time of grief. We don’t want to keep mailing to someone who has passed; that’s a bit like putting salt in the wound (and not to mention a waste of resources). If we are cultivating a major gift donor, it would be a bit awkward to ask them for a major gift if they’ve had an unfortunate event. More importantly, we may even be able to provide some relief; depending on the organization, an institution may be able to provide pastoral care and/or even hold services for the beloved one.

    Finally, there’s also the planned giving aspect of fundraising. It’s important to keep track of donors who have pledged to give part of their estates to your organization. Some planned giving departments will reach out to the estates to reconcile the donor’s pledge.

    However, that doesn’t change the fact that obituary review can be extremely time consuming. There are several things that may help to alleviate the practice. First, you should consider reviewing the obituary procedure at your organization. How much time is it taking compared to the rest of prospect research activities? You could even calculate the yearly cost of obituaries by noting how many hours it takes a week. In one situation, a research department realized it was costing over $15K a year to do obituaries so the process needed to be reviewed. In that situation, the researchers reduced the depth of daily review; instead of reviewing every name in an obituary, it was limited to the deceased and their spouse or child and their parents. That reduced the time incredible.

    Alerts are also a useful tool as well. You may want to consider setting up alerts for your top prospects and planned giving donors. You may want to do this anyway for any other newsworthy events for your organization. That way, you can get quicker notification of a death in the life of a major donor. But it has to be reviewed fairly regularly, possibly on a weekly or even daily basis.

    Finally, it may be a great task for new researchers, interns and student workers.  Reviewing obituaries and cross checking them with the database is a great way to train new hires. It requires attention to detail, follow through and more. Sometimes you have to spend time digging to ensure that the deceased person is the same as the person in your database. Student workers and interns can also be taught to assist with this task. Of course, you’ll need to make sure someone checks their work before anything is finalized in the database.

    These are just a few strategies to help with obituary review. How does your organization handle obituary processes?


  • Tue, November 28, 2017 8:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    What makes Prospect Development a great career?

    APRA-IL is asking local and national industry leaders what the field means to them and why and how they have pursued success in Prospect Development. Through this blog series, we will explore what drives industry leaders to propel their careers and Prospect Development forward.

    For this month's piece, Joan Ogwumike, APRA-IL member and volunteer, interviews Tracey Church, Past President of Apra-Canada and Principal Researcher and Consultant with her company, Tracey Church & Associates, Research + Consulting Services.

    Tracey has been a professional researcher for over 20 years and is the Past President of the Association of Professional Researchers in Advancement Canada (Apra-Canada). She is the Principal Researcher and Consultant with her own company, Tracey Church & Associates, Research + Consulting Services (www.traceychurchresearch.com). Tracey is proud to be the Co-Editor and Co-Author of Apra-Canada’s first book “Prospect Research in Canada: An Essential Guide for Researchers and Fundraisers” (Civil Sector Press, 2016). Tracey is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Research Council and is a Director for Apra International and AFP Golden Horseshoe.

    Tracey has worked with over 300 organizations in the fields of health care, education, social services, the arts, and the environment. Her work includes customized one-on-one or group training, custom research profiles, prospect identification, database screening, pipeline management, strategic planning, time and database management, surveys and interviews, and specialized research projects.

    Tracey is a part-time faculty member at Western University (London, Ontario) teaching the Prospect Research in Fundraising course in the Master of Library and Information Sciences program (MLIS). She has an MLIS and Professional Certificate in Not-for-Profit Management from Western University. She is a regular and requested presenter for Apra, AFP, AHP, OLA and other conferences and loves to see her students and trainees succeed in the exciting field of prospect research.

    Apra – IL: How did you end up owning and running your own prospect research consulting company? Help us understand your journey.

    Church: I have been working in the prospect research and development sector for ~15 years in gradual progressive positions. In that time, through my involvement with Apra International, Apra Canada, AFP, AHP and regional fundraising associations, I had built up quite a healthy network of contacts and relationships. So when I set up my research and consulting business a few years ago, I knew a great many people in the small to medium charitable sector who could benefit from affordable research and consulting.

    Let me go back a bit. I've always been a researcher. When I first graduated from my MLIS program many years ago, I actually accepted a position as a Research Assistant for Clinical Trials at London Health Science Centre. So to me, research is research. You collect and measure relevant information to a question you are trying to answer and through quantifiable and qualification research you report on the outcomes, best practices, and recommendations moving forward. So not a big leap in the process from clinical trial research to prospect development research! From there, I worked at Western University in the Research Office and Institutional Planning and Budgeting Office. At that time, I was a member of AIR (Association of Institutional Research) which again used measurable results for strategic planning for higher education. We had massive budgetary lay-offs in the late 90s at Western, and I was one of them. I set up my own Research & Writing business which was international in scale but largely focused on academic and Canadian research. It was really interesting work, and really diverse, but my children were young and I found I was pretty well working 24-7 which doesn't work well for a young family. I spent a lot of time saying "please close the office door, Mom is working"! That's when I saw the "Prospect Researcher" position at London Health Sciences Foundation, and the rest, they say, is history.

    After five years at LHSF, I became the National Director of Research for CNIB which broadened my scope from regional higher education and healthcare to a national human services agency. It was great for learning the challenge of fundraising for human services, the hardest by far, and for learning the regional differences across Canada. After four years at CNIB, I was recruited to KCI (Ketchum Canada Inc.) from CNIB and broadened my scope even further in regards to the types of research that can be done in fundraising. When I set up my own shop (again) in the summer of 2015, I had learned a great deal about the consulting industry in fundraising in Canada but could, once again, concentrate on the research and prospect development of it. Now of course, my children are older and out of the house, so I am at liberty to make my own schedule without having to worry about soccer or karate practice! I LOVE my work and my clients are very inspirational.

    Apra – IL: Describe your motivations to continue in prospect development and what keeps you engaged.

    Church: It sounds corny, but the people in the charitable sector and my clients are what keep me motivated. I love helping clients whether it's research, training or consulting. It's great when they get in gifts resulting from the research and I like to think my direction helped them along the way. Also, the teaching and presenting are exciting. I have taught the Prospect Research in Fundraising course in the MLIS program at Western University for eight years now, and it's great teaching students who think they are destined to work in libraries that there is a whole great world of the charitable sector out there that could seriously use their data and research skills. I now see some of my past students at Apra conferences and I get a real kick out of how they have chosen this profession after completing my class. Very rewarding! I also keep very involved in Apra International, Apra Canada, AFP and AHP. I can't help it! They are wonderfully helpful organizations for the fundraising sector and since I present a lot and continue to learn a lot from the conferences and webinars, I feel I need to contribute, too. I've made so many great friends through my board and volunteer involvement.

    Apra – IL: What has been the biggest challenge or lesson in your career?

    Church: Oh, for sure you have to be resilient and flexible! Life throws you curve balls (like getting laid off) and you have to step back, reassess, and take bold steps in a new direction. I remember my daughter's guidance counselor told their high school class "on average, you will have seven jobs/careers in your lifetime." So the younger generation is prepared for that, whereas our generation thought that some jobs were for life. Not necessarily so! So, for sure you have to keep up-to-date on technology, keep involved, keep taking courses and learning and you will eventually direct yourself into something new, challenging and rewarding when the time comes along, either by your own doing, or if something throws you off course. I can tell you that each new direction I’ve taken has been considerably more exciting than any previous course.

    Apra – IL: What is one misconception people have about prospect development? What's the truth? 

    Church: Well, there are still some older fundraisers, and yes, some senior executives out there that think prospect research and development is a "nice to have" instead of a "need to have." Because we aren't front line fundraisers, we are often overlooked and shuffled to the bottom when in reality, the most successful fundraisers I know are self-confessed totally-couldn’t-have-done-it-without-research groupies! I always tell my trainees or clients that charitable organizations have to be responsible with donors' money, so soliciting without direction is plain old wasting money. Researchers can direct fundraisers away from prospects that have neither the capacity nor the affinity to give to their organization and we can do it in a much more objective way. We don't want fundraisers wasting time (i.e., money), so targeting and strategic consultation regarding the most viable prospects is absolutely necessary to meet their crazy major giving goals. We have to hold our ground in regards to this and need to be at the table at every strategic meeting and step along the way.

    Where's my soapbox?! I could go on all day!

  • Mon, October 30, 2017 1:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by Kathryn Thomas

    Director of Membership and Marketing, Apra-IL

    Prospect Identification Analyst, Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association

    Hello, colleagues! For those of you who couldn’t make it to the Apra-IL Fall Networking Conference, you were missed! Those of us who could attend enjoyed several hours of structured (and not-so-structured) conversation about how our shops define analytics and utilize them to aid us in our work, how we write and organize biographical information, how to wrangle gift officer portfolios, and more.

    The Prospect Research tables had rousing conversations that veered away from our structured topic list to issues immediately effecting them. During round three, I learned the various attitudes toward and time allotted for proactive verses reactive research. Most shops allotted some time every month, but wished they had the ability to explore new proactive research projects. A few shops are able to devote considerable amounts of time to proactive research and have been experimenting with the best areas to focus on and improve over time.

    The management of portfolios and portfolio reviews were the primary topics of conversation for the Prospect Management table. The conversation confirmed what we’ve all struggled with: what makes a healthy portfolio and does it change depending on a fundraiser’s level of experience or focus area? Development metrics was also touched on during round one. A participant noted that "[she loved] the round table format because the composition of each group really directs the conversation, and it’s a great forum for brain-picking and brainstorming with our peers on those hard-to-answer questions we all come across in our line of work, at every level."

    Over at the analytics table, the round two conversation began with a definition of analytics at each of our shops. From there, discussion centered on projects various shops are undertaking – from using analytics to understand changing trends in corporate giving to parsing out the most beneficial annual giving segments. One attendee noted that she learned some new strategies for encouraging more contact data updates in their CRM. She also noted that she liked having the ability to, "discuss the overall philosophy of different shops on our day-to-day processes and documents" at the event.

    Afterward, we paraded to the World of Beer for tasty snacks (including a truly massive pretzel), delicious drinks, and further conversation.

    When asked what they thought of the day, one attendee noted, "It was a great opportunity to connect with my fellow chapter members and discuss our work and current challenges. This is the one time a year that I can connect with other similar organizations and compare notes. Taking the time to do that has greatly benefited my work and ongoing projects for my team. I’m looking forward to next year!" One new Apra-IL member noted that is was wonderful to have an understanding space in which to share interpersonal issues she's worked through with co-workers and to receive advice and support in that area from a new group of colleagues and soon-to-be friends. 

    For anyone who'd like to give the Apra-IL Board some feedback as we begin planning our fall event, please fill out this very short survey

    Thank you! And I look forward to receiving your feedback and meeting you at the next Apra-IL event in the spring!

  • Mon, October 30, 2017 10:57 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    The working relationship between researchers and gift officers can make or break a shop's morale, efficiency, and ability to reach its goals. Wouldn't it be awesome to be able to match yourself with major gift officers based on strengths and work-style capability instead of random assignments? Apra-IL is having some fun imagining a world where we could pick our perfect research and gift officer match. In an ode to all the popular reality match making shows, we present to you - a new series, Match Makers: The Prospect Development Edition!

    Final Installment 

    Host: Welcome back, everyone, to the final episode of Match Makers: The Prospect Development Edition. That’s right folks, this is our final episode! So far, our researchers Xavier, Veronica, and Melissa have been tested by research requests to analyze their skills and compatibility with Jared, our major gift officer. Our researchers have built portfolios, conducted targeted research in "Whose boat is it anyway," and uncovered a family’s inheritance. In today’s challenge, the researchers will work with a special guest on Jared’s portfolio, and at the end of this challenge Jared will decide who will be his perfect researcher match.

    Xavier, Veronica, Melissa, and Jared, welcome back! I hope you all are ready for today’s challenge.

    Let’s welcome our surprise guest Ericka. Ericka please introduce yourself to our audience, tell them what you do here, and fill them in on today’s challenge.

    Ericka: Hello everyone! My name is Ericka and I am the Prospect Manager at Ordinary University. I manage the plans that Fundraisers like Jared put in our database on prospects, I work with each fundraiser to restructure portfolios, ensure that each fundraiser has a set number of prospects in his or her portfolio, and I analyze how the prospects are being moved along the cultivation pipeline. My job involves a lot of data and collaboration with researchers and fundraisers.

    Today’s challenge is going to be very different. As we all know, Jared is fairly new to OU and has adopted a lot of the previous fundraiser’s portfolio. As a result, Jared is beyond the limit of prospects for his portfolio. Therefore, each researcher will get a chance to review some of the data I’ve compiled on Jared’s portfolio and suggest a "collaboration plan" that would help us as a Development team clean up Jared’s portfolio. This challenge is called,

     C is for Collaboration

    Veronica: Hi everyone, so I was the first to meet with Ericka. As I was looking through Jared’s portfolio I saw a lot of prospects that had old ratings, so I told Ericka that my collaboration plan would consist of updating the prospects’ ratings through quick screenings. Jared’s portfolio is full of prospects with 10-year-old ratings and several principal gift donors. I think it’s important that we as researchers update these ratings and consider distributing some of Jared’s prospects to their second units of interest, if necessary.

    Host: Great plan Veronica! Time to hear from Xavier.

    Xavier: Hi! So, as I looked through Jared’s portfolio with Ericka, I presented her with a collaboration plan in which research and prospect management would work together to redistribute Jared’s portfolio so that it would decrease the number of prospects. In fact, I am familiar with the prospects within Jared’s portfolio because I provided several of the researched profiles.

    Host: Xavier that makes a lot of sense! Thank you for that plan! Melissa?

    Melissa: Hello everyone, when I met with Ericka and looked over Jared’s portfolio, I realized that the best collaboration plan would consist of reviewing Jared’s prospects, and conducting some updated research. I also felt like it would make sense for us to figure out which prospects would remain in the portfolio based on the progress recorded on each prospect's plan. Jared is coming with his own strategies so we need to make sure his portfolio reflects this.

    Host: Melissa, great plan! Ericka? It's time to decide who won this competition after reviewing their collaboration plans. What do you think?

    Ericka: After speaking with Jared about each researcher’s collaboration plan, we really believe that Melissa’s plan won. It was a thorough plan that considered all aspects of how we needed to construct and clean up Jared’s portfolio.

    Jared: And the winner of Match Makers, and my new researcher will be Melissa! All the researchers have done an extraordinary job! But I believe Melissa has been one inch ahead in the game. Thank you to everyone for participating!

    Host: Folks this is so exciting! Thank you, Ericka, Jared, Xavier, Veronica, and our winner of Match Makers: The Prospect Development Edition, Melissa!

    I believe we have learned a lot from our researchers and Ericka. Thank you all for participating! And thank you to our audience for being a part of this journey!

  • Tue, October 10, 2017 8:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    What makes Prospect Development a great career?

    APRA-IL is asking local and national industry leaders what the field means to them and why and how they have pursued success in Prospect Development. Through this blog series we will explore what drives industry leaders to propel their careers and Prospect Development forward.

    For this month's piece, Joan Ogwumike, APRA-IL member and volunteer, interviews Leigh Petersen, former Apra-IL President and Senior Director of Advancement Services and Operations at Southwestern University.


    Working with non-profits for over 15 years, Leigh Petersen is currently the Senior Director of Advancement Services and Operations at Southwestern University. She previously worked as the Director of Prospect Development at Harvard Business School where she developed the prospect management, analytics, and research teams. Prior to Harvard, Leigh served as Director of Prospect Development at Loyola University Chicago. Leigh chaired the 2017 Apra Data Analytics Symposium and served in leadership roles with Apra-IL. Leigh earned her MBA in Information Systems Management with a certificate in Data Warehousing from Loyola University Chicago and a BA in Music Performance from Doane College (Crete, NE). She enjoys singing with the Round Rock Community Choir, running Ragnar Relays, traveling worldwide, and nerding out with data.

    Apra-IL: Describe your motivations to build your career in Prospect Development, and what keeps you engaged.

    Petersen: Like many others, I fell into Prospect Development by accident. My career started in arts management, moved to working in finance, and landed in planned giving. As a gift officer, I enjoyed the donor stories, but found myself more interested in the big picture of prospect identification. Around the same time, I started my MBA at Loyola University Chicago and found my data classes to be very intriguing, which peaked my curiosity in this field. With the techniques learned as a gift officer paired with the data concepts from my MBA class, it felt very natural to transition into the Director of Prospect Development role at Loyola. 

    The Prospect Development professionals whom I have met through Apra and AASP or colleagues whom I've worked with at Loyola, Harvard Business School, or Southwestern University (as well as many other non-profits) continue to amaze me. These individuals continue to ask new questions of our field while taking the time to teach those around them. These wonderful people are why I stay engaged in this area of nonprofits.

    Apra-IL: What impact does your work, and the overall field of Prospect Development, have (and could you describe who you believe your audience is)?

    Petersen: Prospect Development's impact is enormous - locally in our organizations and globally across organizations of all types. Generally, I'm a person who wants to create improvements in my day-to-day role for not only myself, but the environment around me. It's greatly satisfying to know that even a small change in a process or a tiny update in a data point can lead to better productivity and growing results for the entire team and organization. Too often the unsung heroes, Prospect Development professionals, improve the data, processes, flows, relationships, etc. that help raise money in supporting noble efforts. Though it's very difficult to measure our direct impact, I can only estimate (with my experience in capital campaigns) that our impact is in the hundreds of billions of dollars across the industry.

    Apra-IL: Please share a piece of advice with the readers on what you have gained during your professional development.

    Petersen: I'd recommend readers build a network of 3-5 honest and fun people in the profession who can provide straight feedback, push you to be better, and cheer for you along the journey. There were plenty of times when I doubted decisions or walked unknown paths, but these individuals helped guide and support my efforts through constructive conversations. They are also super fun individuals who can handle chilling with a beer and not talking work if that's what's needed.

    Next, I'd recommend learning how to be an expert in something. Whether it's prospect staging, data visualizations, or real estate valuation, find something and become the go-to person on the topic. I've found my passion and success in turning around departments and building teams and processes from scratch. Each situation has been different and extremely challenging, but also very rewarding, especially when you see staff who you've hired move to amazing, successful careers.

    Apra-IL: What is next for you? Is there anything you would like to accomplish or a challenge you hope to overcome?  

    Petersen: It was an honor presenting at CASE Asia in Hong Kong in 2016 with Josh Birkholz. Speaking somewhere outside the US is on my short to-do list. Next, I recently purchased www.leighpetersen.com, so I guess I had better do something with that webpage! I want it to be more than just a blog, so feel free to send me any suggestions of what you're interested in seeing from me. Also, I'm continually intrigued by the power of analytics, so I'm currently investigating some online course options since I need more training in that area. Finally, I love donuts, so those continue to stay in my future.


  • Mon, September 25, 2017 8:45 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Elisa Shoenberger, Benchmarking Analyst, Grenzebach Glier and Associates

    Dear Analyst,

    My organization has decided to do a wealth screening of our entire database. I’ve never been through a wealth screening before. What are the benefits of doing such a large screening?  What should I be aware of before we start this process? All I’ve been told is that we have to go through and verify the information of 1000s of records. How do I do that? And is that even feasible? When we are done with the verification, what’s next? I’m so overwhelmed!

    Thanks,

    Wealth Screening Flummoxed

    Dear Flummoxed,

    Take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay. Wealth screenings are a useful way of unearthing new prospects in your database. By matching people and their addresses from your database with possible assets and other data points, you can learn new information about people in your database. Many services can tell you about their real estate, securities, philanthropic giving, political giving, and much more. Some screenings provide demographic segments for the people in your database that could help in understanding a person’s philanthropic habits. Some screenings are quite comprehensive, including a large portion if not all of your fundraising database. Others may be smaller or more targeted based on the needs of your organization. There are also services that allow you to upload a list of prospects (like Parents or ticketholders) for a mini-screening. Some institutions set up continuous screening of ticketholders, new members, etc. based on their needs and what works best for your organization. You might want to consider a wealth screening every couple of years with some targeted screenings in between depending on what donor populations you want to look at.

    From all of this data, you hopefully can replenish your pool of prospects with new major gift prospects to visit and qualify. Other opportunities from a screening could be developing a new pool of Planned Giving Prospects or Annual Giving Prospects. Through developing these types of pools, you may discover some annual giving prospects who have a very high capacity or you may learn that someone who had a low prospect rating has a lot of securities and may be worth a fresh look. Wealth screenings are very powerful and can aid the work of a prospect researcher enormously.

    While these screenings can be immensely helpful, they also can be a lot of work both before and after you submit data. You mention that there are a lot of records and the information needs to be verified and common names such as John Smith can be tricky and slow the process down. How do you handle all that data? Having a plan for dealing with the wealth screening is very important. First you have to figure out how to handle the extra depends on a team’s time. Some shops have been known to go on a research freeze; only priority projects are worked on while the department work to verify gift capacities. Not all shops are able to do that and so it even more important to have a plan of action and a reasonable time line for verification to be completed. You may have to allot some of your time every day to the screening and the rest to the normal workload. Or you could try to schedule a day a week where you work exclusively on the wealth screening.

    Second, how do you segment the wealth screening data? Chances are that you just won’t be able to get to everyone. So how do you do it? I would highly recommend a top down approach. Often times, wealth screenings will come up with a rating like $100,000 - $250,000 or a score. Some services will have a total of identified assets. Use these ratings, scores, and assets to prioritize your verification process. You may want to start at the very top rated prospects per the wealth screening or those with the highest number of identified assets. If you have a specific program or project you are working on, focus on that to help your prioritize. For instance, if you are helping a law school with their campaign, you may want to focus on law alumni with high number of assets. It would help to parse it out, by an area of interest like law or the arts or geographic areas. In other words, assemble small groups of people that need to be verified. For instance, you could create a group of all Illinois residents with a rating over $250,000+. In my shop, we’d try to segment it by about 250 people. That is way more manageable than 1000s. Dealing with the data in smaller chunks is a lot easier to comprehend and far more useful!

    Third, how do you get your new prospects into gift officer portfolios? This likely will require discussion with management and major gift officers (and other officers) as well. A good approach would be to put together a list of new prospects that you think should be assigned overall or to a specific gift officer. Of course, as noted in previous Dear Analyst post, you may have to sell the prospects to get major gift officers interested in them. Some gift officers can be very eager for new prospects and make the process easier but we all know we will have to make a tough sell at some point. Another ideas would be to consider looking at the new prospects’ contact information to help aid gift officers in reaching out to the new leads. But that is very dependent on your availability!

    As a final but important note, it will be important to set expectations with management at your institution. Also, some leaders may get very excited about the data and want the leads right now. While it’s great that they are onboard, you want to explain the importance of verification to ensure that you have the right data per prospect. You may have to show them your plan so they understand that it is a process and won’t happen overnight.

    You are going to find a lot of new prospects but it probably won’t help as much with folks that you already know. Wealth screening can help uncover new prospects to support your mission, find new upgrade opportunities to build pipeline donors, and may help align high end donors to the right giving area. It’s an important complement to the efforts of prospect research and prospect management. These are just a few ways to help guide you as you handle your first wealth screening. Each screening is an opportunity and you should take full advantage of it! At the end of the process, you’ll have a new pool of prospects with lots of great information on their capacity!

    Have a burning question for Dear Analyst? Email us at apraillinois@gmail.com or tweet us at @apraillinois.



Apra-IL is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization. 

332 S Michigan Ave. Suite 1032 #A62, Chicago, IL 60604 | 872.267.2772 | apraillinois@gmail.com

Copyright © 2018 Apra-IL. All rights reserved. 

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software